O'Brien Addresses Staff Changes

Penn State's head coach tackles the departures of the team's longtime doctor and a veteran administrator.

ATLANTIC CITY -- Much reading between the lines took place Wednesday, when in the span of a few hours Penn State issued press releases saying two longtime contributors to the Nittany Lion football program were moving on.

Dr. Wayne Sebastianelli would no longer be the team physician and orthopedic surgeon, the roles he had held since 1992. He would, however, remain as the school's director of sports medicine.

Also, associate athletic director for football operations Fran Ganter, a former player and assistant coach under Joe Paterno, was retiring after 46 years with the program.

At a Friday press event for the Maxwell Football Club's National Awards Dinner here, second-year Nittany Lion head coach Bill O'Brien indicated anyone reading too much into the changes -- both men had been top lieutenants under Paterno -- was making a mistake.

“As it relates to the medical setup, this is not about Wayne Sebastianelli,” O'Brien said. “Wayne Sebastianelli is a good man and fantastic doctor and has done so much for Penn State. This is more about a reorganization of the medical team.”

While walking something of a delicate tightrope, O'Brien said he thought Penn State fans were “fantastic people,” but that they have to become more accustomed to change.

“From the outside looking in, it's been the same way for a number of years,” O'Brien said. “It's a little bit more about a fresh approach, fresh ideas, doing what's best for the student-athlete. That's what we've tried to do.”

Linebacker Michael Mauti, who had two ACL injuries repaired by Sebastianelli during his recently completed college football career, admitted to hearing rumors that he had issues with the former team doctor. Some of it stemmed from the fact that in November, Mauti had a third ACL injury repaired by Jim Bradley, the team doctor for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“I was done with college,” Mauti said. “It had nothing to do with Dr. Sebastianelli. Me and him are great family friends, our families are close. I've heard rumors about [problems]. SeaBass is an outstanding surgeon. I trusted him with both of my knees the first two surgeries.

“I left Penn State, my career was over,” he added. “We just felt it was best for me to go with another doctor.”

In the meantime, O'Brien went out of his way to praise Ganter, who was Paterno's offensive coordinator from 1984-2000 before moving into an administrative role.

“When I took the job here, he was instrumental in our transition,” O'Brien said of Ganter. “Just a really neat guy who had been here for 46 years as a player, as a coach. This guy was offensive coordinator for the best Penn State offense [1994] in the history of the program, which to me is really neat. Then he had the perspective of being associate athletic director. He chose to step away to spend more time with his sons and do more family-related things.”

When asked about fans who were disappointed to see the two staff veterans leave, O'Brien gave a direct answer.

“I can't do anything about that,” he said. “I'm trying to do what's best for this football program, university and athletic department -- from my perspective and from this staff's perspective. At the end of the day, this is about the players and the coaching staff and doing what's best for Penn State.”

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